A young man suspected of fatally beating a 78-year-old Riverside woman during a home invasion robbery was being held without bail Thursday.

Sixto Jesus Garcia Pena, 19, of Palm Springs was taken into custody Wednesday and booked into the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside on suspicion of murder, home invasion robbery and first-degree burglary.

Pena was located at the Imperial County Jail, where he was awaiting adjudication in an unrelated case, and Riverside police detectives served an arrest warrant, transferring him to the downtown Riverside detention center.

According to Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback, Pena allegedly killed Denise Irene Wong in her single-story house in the 1200 block of East Manfield Street, near Masters Avenue, on Jan. 6.

“Denise was a loving mother, grandmother, sister, friend and a good and kind person,” Riverside police Chief Larry Gonzalez said. “A 50-year resident of Riverside, she also loved her city and her community. We are shocked and heartbroken over her passing. But we will always remember her warmth, generosity and smile. We take heart in knowing she lived a life filled with love, faith and devotion to her family.”

Patrol officers were called to the victim’s home that evening after her loved ones requested a welfare check when Wong didn’t respond to phone calls. She was found dead from injuries inflicted a few hours earlier, Railsback said.

He said Pena allegedly accessed the residence by breaking out a rear window.

“Officers observed some items … out of place and consistent with a burglary,” the officer said, adding that the victim’s car had been stolen.

Detectives confirmed the vehicle was involved in a hit-and-run collision in Indio a few hours after the break-in, according to Railsback.

Indio police impounded the abandoned vehicle, and homicide investigators went to the impound yard and collected evidence from the car that helped them identify Pena as the suspect, Railsback said.

Three days later, they confirmed Pena had been arrested in Imperial County, and arrangements were made for the transfer.

Anyone with information related to the investigation was asked to contact detectives at 951-353-7104.

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